Ashish Nehra took off like a plane after sending back Mahela Jayawardene in his second over. It was the 14th over of the Sri Lankan innings and the match was tantalizingly poised. Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara were just grafting in for a long vigil when the wicket fell.
MS Dhoni looked pleased like a punch and the celebration continued when Angelo Mathews sent a nick in the same over. Sri Lanka slumped to 50 for 4 and India were clearly on top of the match.
The Indian seamer had saved his best for the final and, on Thursday, Sri Lanka petered out without a fight. Chasing 269 for victory, the hosts folded up for 187, handing India an 81-run victory. The visitors finally ended their Asia Cup drought and won the trophy after 15 years.
If India had a poor start, losing Gautam Gambhir in the seventh over, Sri Lanka’s was poorer when Tillakaratne Dilshan fell in the first over. Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan and Nehra turned the heat on the defending champions and Sangakkara was left to curse his luck for losing the toss in the final.
India had an advantage batting first after Dhoni won the toss. Gambhir and Dinesh Karthik set the tone early but the third over got everybody on the edge of their seats. The stadium let out a collective sigh when Gambhir was dropped twice off Nuwan Kulasekara’s second over. Thilina Kadambi failed to latch on to a flier from Gambhir at first slip and Sangakkara dropped another chance while standing up to Kulasekara in the very next delivery.
It was Karthik who got going after Gambhir was run out, trying to steal a third in the seventh over.
Virat Kohli opened up slowly and Karthik clattered some crisp boundaries off Farveez Maharoof. Finally, a gritty innings from Rohit Sharma took India to a modest total.